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Not so jiggy

The gossip surrounding the open-book relationship between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez has generated so much hype in the tabloids that it's nearly impossible to watch or discuss Gigli - the star vehicle that brought them together in the first place - without considering the film's impact on the Hollywood lovebirds. A good film might aid their careers. In this case, it certainly won't help.

Setting a romance within the gangster genre is not particularly original but it can be quite entertaining when handled well. Unfortunately, Gigli squanders its potential to such a degree that there's little to enjoy. It's enormously boring.

Affleck plays Larry Gigli ("jeally, rhymes with really," he tells everyone, as if we care), a loser hit man whose ego eclipses his intellect. He's so tough, he talks with a Brooklyn accent even though he's from Los Angeles. Gigli's strident boss, Louis (Lenny Venito), who's apparently run out of schmucks to do his dirty work, assigns Gigli the important task of kidnapping the little brother of a powerful federal prosecutor to save their top boss from going to prison. The rationale: The prosecutor will be so unnerved, he'll lay off for a while. Go figure.

Problem number one: The kidnapping isn't particularly dramatic because Brian (Justin Bartha), the kid in question, is psychologically disabled. Gigli basically walks right into the home where he lives and walks straight out with the kid. With his eccentric mannerisms and mysterious outbursts about wanting to go to "The Baywatch" (i.e. the beach), autistic Brian becomes Gigli's headache and the film's excuse to set endearing, lesson-learning moments to sappy music. Turns out hit-man Gigli is a softie when boss Louis isn't looking.

Problem number two: As if sensing Gigli’s ability to ruin a good thing, Louis assigns Ricki (Lopez) to watch over him so he won't screw things up. Naturally, she and he don't see eye-to-eye from the start, which means, of course, that they’ll be kissing passionately by the end.

To spice things up, Ricki spurns Gigli's pompous advances by claiming she's lesbian. She even gets to prove it by dealing with the sudden appearance of her ex (Missy Crider), who throws a near-suicidal tantrum. Ricki is actually bisexual - she admits to having slept with men in the past - but the film doesn't allow that possibility. Instead, we must blindly assume that Gigli's sheer masculinity wins her over in the end to the hetero side.

Problem number three: As their relationship evolves, Gigli and Ricki engage in college dorm conversations about sex and the relative merits of penises and vaginas. Each tries to outsmart the other. As a result, he looks like an immature jerk and she sounds like a know-it-all. Their repartee elicits a big yawn. Worse, the pacing in these scenes is so slow that the film crawls to a standstill.

Gigli has problems. Not only is there a surprising absence of suspense or believability in this mob world, but Gigli and Ricki lack the chemistry to keep audiences interested for two whole hours ­ and, furthermore, Brian is never in any real danger. Test audiences apparently hated the original ending, so writer/director Martin Brest had to change it and re-shoot a new one. No wonder this film looks cobbled together.

Only two actors give the film any zest whatsoever. Christopher Walken, looking as though he just walked in off the street, appears briefly as a detective investigating the kidnapping. His oddly entertaining performance, punctuated by pregnant pauses, hints at how zany Gigli could have been. Later pony-tailed Al Pacino, playing the top boss everyone's been trying to help all this time, gets to do what he does best: yell at people and chew the scenery. He gives the film its only truly chilling, violent moment - one that's too serious, and ultimately out of place, for this dopey movie.


Rated R
2 hours 4 minutes

Ben Affleck
Jennifer Lopez
Justin Bartha
Lenny Venito